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November 17th 2015 print

John O’Sullivan

Multiculturalism’s Culture of Contempt

Malcolm Turnbull is fond of proclaiming that Australia is a multicultural society, but this is loose talk. A multicultural society is a contradiction in terms, since common cultural understandings are the glue that holds a society together. Just look at France and the way its very fabric is ripped asunder

eiff smashedWe were about thirty hours from sending this issue of Quadrant to the printers when the news broke that terrorist attacks in Paris had killed more than a hundred people. It seemed an important enough event, throwing light on both European and Australian concerns, to justify commissioning serious commentaries on it. That in turn pushed us into re-shaping this Quadrant around the concept of France’s emerging civil war.

Chance favours the prepared mind, it is said, and that concept had been planted in our minds the previous week when we received an article from our perceptive cultural critic Michael Connor titled “Paris, at Five Minutes to Midnight”. On a visit to France, Michael was struck by the unstable jostling blend of joyful cultural entertainments, car-burnings in resentful anti-white suburbs, the smart bookshops running out of republished Occupation-era fascist novels, all within a few stops on the Metro. “Nowhere in Paris is far from possible danger,” he writes. “The theatres and museums operate under strict security. Armed soldiers punctuate the street outside the Shoah Memorial, as they do outside Sacré Cœur.” An excerpt from his column in our next edition is below:

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In French bookshops this autumn is Lucien Rebatet’s Les Décombres (The Ruins). It was hastily reprinted after the initial 5000-copy print run sold out on publication day. It was also a best-seller during the occupation and this is the first uncensored post-war edition. The fascist and anti-Semitic must-read of 1942 now comes with a modern prophylactic introduction by a left-wing historian—strange when you think that the Left is now the home of anti-Semitism. A new translation of another wartime best-seller, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, will be in the bookstores in January 2016, after the author’s copyright expires.

Before then Paris will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the 2005 banlieue riots. A nostalgic rock-throwing, car-burning veteran has been quoted as saying that next time it won’t be a riot, it will be civil war. A civil war suggests two sides but in France there might not be another side to take to the battlefield. Just in the last few weeks there have been major incidents with gypsy bands attacking gendarmes, burning cars and closing down some of the country’s main road arteries. With Holland appearing more and more like a Louis XVI bis there were few, if any, arrests. The Parisian banlieues already seem like a foreign concession—Dogs and Frenchmen Not Admitted. France does grand defeats on a grand scale—1870, almost happened in 1914, 1940, 1962, and possibly sometime very soon. When ISIS flags flutter along the Rue de Rivoli and Marais gays flap from the top of the Arc de Triomphe survivors may talk not of civil war but the War of Conversion circa 2016 ….

… Nowhere in Paris is far from possible danger. The theatres and museums operate under strict security. Armed soldiers punctuate the street outside the Shoah Memorial, as they do outside Sacré Cœur. To visit the Memorial you need to press a button to attract a response from a security control room. You wait until a green light glows and you push the button to enter—a small cell-like entry room where we are confined until the door locks shut behind us. Now, if permitted, you press more buttons to be approved for entry into the main part of the building.

On Sunday afternoon a free bus takes people to the new museum opposite the Drancy internment camp site in the outer suburbs of Paris. During the occupation an uncompleted housing estate in Drancy was used for holding Jews until they were transferred to Auschwitz or other camps. Over 67,000 people passed through it. After the war the building was completed and today it is a regular housing estate. The free bus is a short walk away from the Shoah Memorial. In the street nervous people stand about waiting. A bus without a destination mark arrives and parks further up the street. A plain-clothed security man boards and checks it out. He smiles and waves to people who board for the trip to Drancy. When we arrive we are met by another security man who shows us into the museum building opened by President Hollande in 2012. There are only a few of us. One old man, an American Jew living in Miami, passed through Drancy when young and has the Auschwitz numbers on his arm.

We skip the guided tour and go straight upstairs to the permanent exhibition. Big glass windows look across the street to the housing estate. The buildings are laid as in a U shape. At the open end an old SNCF railway van used in the deportations stands on rails, and nearby is a memorial statue. The railway van has been vandalised before. Drancy has an important Muslim population. As we look down, the people from our bus cross the street and stand about listening to the tour guide. A security man stands at their back, his eyes travelling about. When later we go down to visit the site, the present tensions are stronger than the historical message.

– Michael Connor in December’s Quadrant

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THE MASS MURDERS in Paris took place following a summer that had seen a vast non-military invasion of Europe, mainly by young men from the Middle East and Africa sweeping over Europe’s external and internal borders under the guise, not false in all cases, of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Europe’s political class had accepted this human wave on humanitarian grounds but with varying degrees of enthusiasm; Mrs Merkel went beyond that and issued a general invitation to all refugees who wanted to live in Germany. Hundreds of thousands from a pool of potential millions began to move over sea and land towards Germany and Sweden. What few anxieties were expressed by Berlin and Brussels through the summer did not include concern that this influx of young men might include terrorists or otherwise threaten security.

Europe’s peoples had been more sceptical from the start. A handful of political leaders, notably Hungary’s Viktor Orban, expressed disquiet, puzzlement, opposition. They were promptly denounced as, in effect, neo-fascists, and the EU voted to impose mandatory refugee resettlement quotas on them and everyone else. Mrs Merkel had the extra-legal authority to invite millions of people to live anywhere in the twenty-six countries of the Schengen zone.

Or so it appeared. But this firm imposition of open borders, justified by multicultural pieties, began to break down even before the Paris murders. Not only Central European countries such as Hungary, but also Denmark, Sweden and Austria imposed border controls. The new Polish conservative government announced that it would refuse to accept refugees under the “mandatory” resettlement program. The German government announced that refugees would have to leave for their country of “first arrival” after a brief period for registration and recuperation (though apparently Mrs Merkel learned of this change through the media). And her Finance Minister, the powerful Wolfgang Schauble, mused loudly that sometimes an avalanche can be inadvertently started by the recklessness of a “careless skier”.

Since the murders, France and Belgium have closed their borders, and the EU Commission President, Donald Tusk, has warned that the Schengen Agreement might collapse entirely. Mrs Merkel herself no longer seems immune to political mortality. Early reports claim that one of the terrorists is a “Frenchman of Algerian origin”, that another had a Syrian passport, and that he and a third entered the EU through Greece where their passports were checked in accordance with European rules.

Everything was in order but 127 people died.

What were the politicians thinking? Well, they were slightly afraid of thinking, especially of thinking any thoughts that might conflict with the orthodoxies of a borderless Europe and multiculturalism. Multiculturalism in particular makes politicians nervous because there isn’t much agreement on what multiculturalism is except it’s a Good Thing.

Various definitions are available—eating fusion food or listening to Asian jazz; publishing official documents in minority languages; treating all cultures as equal, including those cultures that deny human and sexual equality; and ensuring that social groups are hired, fired, paid, promoted, elected to parliament, and much else in line with their percentage of the population. That last definition involves a lot of complicated policies such as affirmative action, bilingualism, protected classes, and so on. But the fuzzy general attitude underlying it is that it’s always wrong to show preference for your own kind of people but occasionally right to do so for the Other. Legitimate preferences for the Other seemingly include not asking them questions about security that might embarrass them.

That’s very firmly, if vaguely, the attitude of European (and especially German) political elites. Its technical term is “idealism”. Curiously enough, most ordinary Europeans (like ordinary Australians or Americans) tend to reverse this preference. Without being hostile, they tend to think that if distinctions are to be made, they should favour their own countrymen. The technical term for this is “xenophobia”.

For obvious historical reasons, the elite attitude has usually won out in post-war German politics. Just lately, however, the elites have swept aside all sceptical opposition. After a recent visit to Berlin, Adam Garfinkle, editor of the American Interest, wrote:

Even the Chancellor, who by German standards is far from a raving leftist, appears to firmly believe that everyone must be a multiculturalist for moral reasons, and that all people who want to preserve the ethno-linguistic integrity of their communities—whether in Germany or in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere—are acting out of base motives … [But] that is not racism … It is simply preferring the constituency of a high-social-trust society, from which, social science suggests, many good things come: widespread security, prosperity, and a propensity toward generosity being prominent among them.

That contempt for the desire of ordinary citizens to feel comfortable and safe in their own society has dominated German and European politics since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Multiculturalism will now be going out of fashion. And since atrocities like those at the weekend are likely to continue—or so the intelligence authorities warn us—it will stay out of fashion a long time.

Mr Turnbull is fond of proclaiming that Australia too is a multicultural society, but this is loose talk. A multicultural society is a contradiction in terms, since common cultural understandings are the glue that holds a society together. Australia is really a multi-ethnic liberal society with an English-speaking common culture (like almost all other Anglosphere countries) and exotic tastes. Hindus, Sikhs, Italians, Greeks, Chinese, Vietnamese and other non-Anglo groups meet in an Australian public square and address their difficulties and each other in English. They conform without difficulty to the law and they operate inside common institutions. They either are or become Australians with only the faintest touch of hyphenation. Their ethnic cultures (language, food, religion) they employ and celebrate at home or on ethnic feast days along with—increasingly—their neighbours. And where they seriously differ—on blasphemy, for instance—they don’t try to enforce their beliefs on each other. They follow the ur-liberal principle: live and let live.

The exception is when a minority has settled political or religious beliefs at serious variance with the political institutions of the country—with the Constitution. If there were widespread support among Muslims for the imposition of sharia in Australia, for instance, that would be a serious problem because sharia treats women as inferior beings while Australia’s political culture is rooted in sexual equality. Leading Australian Muslims deny any such conflict and argue that those Muslims who see one misunderstand their own religion.

Plainly, however, those Islamists who have decamped to ISIS have a quarrel with Western liberalism—along with those remaining in Australia who support and sympathise with them. What they want is to impose an Islamist puritanism on Western society that includes slavery and the murder of apostates. Killing random strangers as if in a war is how they try to break the West’s will. It is Australia’s good fortune that they are still very few in number and as yet constitute a local police problem rather than a political or a constitutional or a national security one.

That’s no longer the case in France or in much of the rest of Europe. Mark Steyn summed up France’s situation following the Paris murders as, “The barbarians are inside, and there are no gates.”

The Islamists are growing in numbers, in part through immigration, but they are still a minority within a minority. Yet they have succeeded in reducing freedom of speech throughout Europe, and in local areas where the Islamists dominate they impose rules such as “no alcohol” and a “modest” dress code for women through threats and beatings. By contrast liberal governments tell Muslim pupils that they need not sing the national anthem if it offends them, and neurotically avoid giving the slightest offence to supposed Muslim sensitivities.

What is needed above all else is a recovery of moral self-confidence and an assertion of the liberal values that attracted Muslims and others to Western societies in the first place. But will that come from the political elites? Douglas Murray thinks not in his powerful polemic in this issue of Quadrant. He echoes a remark made two decades ago by Jean-Francois Revel: “The Left may sometimes be wrong, but the Right can never be right.”

But there are only so many times that you can be wrong, even in politics.

John O’Sullivan is the editor of Quadrant. This essay is taken from his Chronicle column in the magazine’s upcoming December edition

Comments [8]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    The very concept “multicultural” is a blatantly stupid contradiction. Culture can not be, by its very nature, “multi”. A good illustration of this mindless idiocy is trying to apply the preposition “multi” to colour. Can there be such a thing or concept as “multicolor”? Mottled, dappled, streaked, dotted and the like are not colours. They are composed of distinctly separate bits of individual colours, each with its unique shade and hue, remaining steadfastly separate from one another. Certainly, colours can be blended together by various means to create a variety of new colours, but all those new colours will be newly unique, having absorbed the characteristics of of its components. There will be nothing “multi” about them.

  2. Jody says:

    The younger generation just doesn’t seem to mind multiculturalism, having grown up with only that. They don’t seem to have the investment in all the things of cultural value which we did and, with so many young people either unemployed or having to regularly change jobs, they probably don’t have the time to invest much interest in it – save for symbolic “Facebook” mourning when things happen as they did in Martin Place or Paris. For anyone under about 45 it’s a non-starting argument, so comprehensively brainwashed have they been by the education system and the media anyway.

    For we older folk..well we won’t have to live with the consequences and we are remote enough from Europe to look on in horror, but from a distance. There is some serious discourse being driven by public intellectuals on the topic of multi-racism and failure to integrate but it’s preaching to the converted I’m afraid.

    Don’t expect the government to ever iterate anything but cliches – so many of their electorates now are multi-racial they would see it as self-defeating.

    • Bill Martin says:

      The thing is, Jody, that “multicultural” is a meaningless term and even though it is much bandied about, it is interpreted in a myriad ways precisely because it has no valid meaning.

  3. Jody says:

    In short, Bill, they’re all “waiting for Godot”. By God, Beckett was really onto something there!!

    I’m probably not as smart as others, but I’ve begun to realize that in order to argue against the Left you have to bandy its own language back at it. Denialism and enabling of muslims and Islamism is derived primarily through calling out those who actively criticize is as ‘right wing, fundamentalist, sexist, racist bigots’. In short, all those things about the Muslim religion itself and which are preciously defended by the Left are one and the same things of which they accuse their critics.

    What delicious cognitive dissonance and irony we have there!!! It’s very important, therefore, to use the language of the Left back at itelf. Since they assiduously revert to their familiar nostrums and tics – racism, xenophobia, etc. – then the Right has the right to demand precisely WHY the left supports right wing fundamentalism and its sexist and xenophobic cultural underpinnings.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Christianity began as an offshoot of Judaism and a political/religious response to the Roman Empire. Its founder preached accommodation and compromise rather than resistance to those under Roman domination. So it began as a religion of peace, and some would say of peace at any price. Though its scriptures deliver a message of peace and non-violent submission to authority, any philosophical problems that the message might pose have been successfully overcome, at least to the satisfaction of successive Christian clerics and leaders of Christian armies. Often enough, that religion of peace became one of war.

      By contrast, Mohammad was a 7th century Arab trader who, after being inspired by a religious experience became convinced that he was God’s prophet on Earth. He set out to build an army and to lead it in a war to unite all the tribes of Arabia into one huge super-tribal force: a combined religious and military organisation, with himself as supreme commander and chief theocrat. His Islamic Empire in time spread from the borders of India to the gates of Vienna, and from Spain to Nigeria.

      Islam thus began as a religion of war, with a bible (ie the Koran) that was and remains a warrior’s manual. Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom have arrived in Islam via birth rather than conversion, have cherry-picked the scripture and have tried to re-badge the creed as one of peace, but with limited success. A further difficulty lies in the fact that the founder Mohammad forbade additions or alterations to the Koran. It is literally a closed book. So while proclaiming their Islam as a religion of peace, Islam’s clerics have never been able to shake off its origins as a religion of war.

      Muslims also have a problem when trying to live peacefully beside non-Muslims. Their Koran tells them on every other page that they are the elect of God and that their (inferior) infidel neighbours are headed for eternal damnation in Hell’s fire. Peacefully-inclined believers continually and in the main sincerely try to market Islam to themselves and others as a religion of peace. But periodic outrages are carried out by a youthful and militant minority of their fellow Muslims who incline to take their unalterable Koran a bit too literally. In the absence of serious efforts by Muslim clerics to denounce them, these outrages look like proceeding indefinitely into the future.

      Typically, a multiple murder-suicide event as occurred in New York 2003 or in Paris in 2015 is followed by an Irish stew of analytical angst with a variety of conclusions drawn: it is all the fault of the victims, or of the West in general; it is not the fault of Islam; it is the legacy of the Crusades… Afghanistan… etc… Iraq… etc.

      See Andrew Bolt’s dissection* of the statement by the Australian National Imams Council. See also Mehdi (‘Yes… But’) Hasan on the same subject in the Grauniad**:

      “Let me be clear: to explain is not to excuse; explication is not justification. There is no grievance on earth that can justify the wanton slaughter of innocent men, women and children, in France or anywhere else.

      “The savagery of Isis is perhaps without parallel in the modern era. BUT the point is that it did not emerge from nowhere: as the US president himself has conceded, Isis “grew out of our invasion” of Iraq.” [Caps not in the original: IM.]

      If in France or any other non-Islamic majority country the number of outrages per year increases sufficiently, the result will be series of government responses from restrictions on Muslim immigration to a religious civil war: with unknowable consequences.

      *http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/sack_the_mufti_now_no_the_paris_massacre_wasnt_the_fault_of_the_west/
      **http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/17/russian-bombs-terror-vladimir-putin-syria-david-cameron

  4. acarroll says:

    Ethnic nepotism in multicultural societies never ceases. It’s at play in Australia also. You might say that all Australia’s ethnic minorities come together in the forum and speak in English but they’re also looking out for their own, first and foremost.

    History is littered with the stories of atrocities between competing ethnic groups in the same space.

    This is not to put any blame on the different ethnic groups in Australia, including Arab muslims. They’re just behaving as their culture and people evolved.

    We need to seriously focus on the politicians who’ve supported and facilitated the dismantling of the nation states of European and European derived societies. Professional politicians, they appear to be doing this because it’s good for their prestige, their wealth and the security of children. So who’s providing the rewards for this behaviour?

    None if it is popular and none of it has gone to referendum. So you can’t say that it’s because people vote for it, they don’t. If one of the major parties went forward on a purely populist anti-immigration policy they’d win hands down. But they don’t because there’s a gentleman’s agreement among the major parties that populism — read real democracy — is low brow and the peasants need to be told what’s good for them and take their medicine.

    The problems that have been created in all European derived countries (excluding the East-Central and Eastern European countries) through mass immigration are permanent. Europe in particular has a very unstable future ahead of it. I’m sure the people who’ve supported the immigration policy’s would have made white flight long before then though.

  5. jenkins says:

    Just think positive thoughts and we’ll all be alright,OK?

  6. Davidovich says:

    As with so many social problems today, multiculturalism was introduced into Australia by the Whitlam Government. Since the Labor Party can admit no failings in Whitlam they will never agree to sensible modification of the disastrous policies which multiculturalism has brought about and, now, with Turnbull leading the Liberals there is little hope of sensible reform.